One of the reasons why I didn’t pursue a graduate degree in international education--though it was a big passion of mine-- was because at the heart of it, “education” was only recognized if it was in an institutionalized form. Educators only regarded other educators as educators if they were teaching in an institution. Equally, an educated person was only recognized as educated if they had received their education from an institution. It is this very notion of education that has relegated communities not practicing institutionalized education to the status of “uneducated”, therefore, “too unworthy to learn from”. I believe that this is one of the reasons why we are facing such a dire environmental crisis, today: we refused to learn from those holding the most powerful lessons on how to co-exist with nature simply because their rural lifestyle and culture didn’t adhere to modern views of civilization and development.
As a result, we are facing an environmental crisis, cancer is on the rise, and hunger is still a daunting reality for many.
It’s time that we recognize that our modern systems of agriculture that have supplanted the old methods of organic, small-scale farming for sustenance living is what is failing us today.
We can start recognizing this by shifting our ideas of what poverty and civilization are so that we can stop perpetuating negative stigmas about those living in the rural sector of non-Western countries and start embracing the wisdom that they can offer. Only when we shift our ways of thinking will we see that there are many ways of living and farming than what is purported by agro-industries who have prospered from misrepresenting cultures and spreading fears of global hunger. As early as 1798, economists, Thomas Malthus was warning us that food was going to run out and a global hunger was imminent. Western economies were built on this fear. 172 years later, the fear was still looming: the pioneers of the Green Revolution saw the conditions of African and Asian countries, glanced at the villages that bore the brunt of colonization and then announced to the world that Africa and Asia were starving because of backwards civilizations; because they were uneducated; and because population was growing.
So instead of analyzing the geopolitical circumstances that marginalized communities—especially the rural rector—the solution to hunger and poverty was said to lie in the power to increase food production. But without looking deeply into the root causes of socio-economic inequality, it became clear that the Green Revolution—supported by agro-industries, the food industry, biotechnical industries, political lobbyists, and government—was born out of the sole desire to encourage economic growth for these industries, and not address the real inequalities that contributed to poverty and hunger. For if this was the case, not only would we have been able to find empowering solutions to problems we have been battling for the past 70 years, we would have learned sacred lessons on how to care for, and coexist with nature.
Do you or your loved ones come from cultures or traditions that have devised ways to coexist with nature? If so, I would love to hear about them. Please share in the comments below!